Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Being the Difference in a Broken World


If there’s anything the news has captured this week it is that even though we are a society capable of sending an email anywhere on the map in seconds and can invite people from anyplace on the globe into our living room through Facetime we still fail to bridge the gap with our neighbor. Struggles to start conversations have created chasms. Blinders have left us ignorant. And the result is brokenness.

We live in what is touted the greatest nation in the world.  Many of us have faith in a God who graciously breathes life into us and beckons us to be His hands and feet.

Yet we watch and freeze.

And I don’t know if it is a lack of awareness, or a desire for ease, or simply being overwhelmed by all the forms of tragedy tucked away in our culture but it burned me and stole precious hours of sleep.

How is one person supposed to respond to any of it?  

I don’t pretend to have the answers. I’m just as human as you.

But, yesterday morning I woke up bright and early and went to my children’s school with an excited spirit and my cup of coffee cheering me on after what basically amounted to a glorified nap the night before.

Organized by two teachers and a supportive administration, our students collected and purchased fleece thanks to the generosity of our school community and together students, staff, and volunteers worked to tie blankets for a local organization that delivers warmth (through blankets) to the homeless. Leave it to teachers. They are truly of the heart to nurture becoming better people not just create smarter learners. 

And so, through little hands tying fleece, the world shines brighter.  They worked with gusto to get their tie blanket done - one kindergartener even telling me about his strong muscles making it possible. They smiled and talked and laughed and dreamed about the children these blankets would serve. They took a step towards bridging a gap (that should rattle us all) in the spirit of peace and love.

When the day was done and my back was reminding me of my age after sitting on the gym floor so much, I climbed into my mommy minivan with pause. Tears welled in my eyes. The school is making purposeful effort for kids to help kids so that goodwill and compassion might be their way of life.

And they did it one tie at a time.

Our God created us all with different passions. Different gifts. Different burdening to different issues. But I have to believe that He did so with the perfect recipe so that if each of us acted in the areas we feel impassioned all these divides would fade away because they would all be met. Love wins. Hope fills the void. Accord begets relationship.
 
 

So today I humbly challenge you to start with where you are with the spaces that grieve your heart. Work with gusto. Make a blanket for the homeless. Bring a meal to the single mom. Become a mentor for a struggling child. Invest added time with your own children to reinforce healthy families. Lead a group. Become a foster parent. Bring food to the food pantry. Shake a veteran's hand. Get trained to help at your local crisis pregnancy center. Swing your hammer to build a community. Tutor or teach how to read. Join the fight in human trafficking. WHATEVER.
The fact is the needs of the world are big and struggles daunting, but together we can be the difference. 


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Monday, November 24, 2014

How to Choose Joy When Joy Feels So Far Away

We’ve officially moved into Thanksgiving week.  People are buzzing with turkey preps, packing, family gatherings, and talk of thanksgiving.

But what for those who feel suffocated by life at the moment? How do you choose joy when joy feels so far away?

When diagnosis threatens, children go astray, job security is tenuous, marriages are on the edge, family discord makes the idea of a family table seem like an earthly version of the Hot Place, or maybe there is an empty chair there for the first time and the stuff of life just weighs like a millstone.  What then?

I pray you are not in this boat, but I know some of you are and it can make the seasonal joy feel trite.  And I want to speak into your heart today.

Joy isn’t gone.  JOY ISN’T GONE!!!!!
My bible study had me in Ezekiel this morning. Israel was dead as a nation. Hope was lost.  Days came and went but the sun never seemed to shine.  Not to unlike how life sometimes feels. In a vision, God takes Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones – a visual of the death Israel’s hearts are living.  And,
 
 

I smiled at a God who was preparing my heart for a true understanding of gratitude. 
Because I realized that of all the times that I've felt weakest in my life...


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Monday, November 17, 2014

5 Things Your Child Needs from You Today


I’ve been keeping a secret. It’s been in the works since last spring and now I finally get to tell you about it.

I’m teaching a mother-daughter dance class for moms and their first-through fifth grade daughters!!! {The same studio I grew up dancing in so how is that for awesome?!}

The dream came about when some of us danced with our daughters in the Christmas dance recital. Mothers expressed interest in the waiting area of continuing into spring, and I, a mother alongside them who also happens to work with struggling teens, realized this was the perfect opportunity.  Why not capitalize on her passion to create moments that matter?

I could give you a million statistical reasons to sell you on why together time is child important. I could tell you about the heartbreaking number of elementary school girls who are dieting without their parents knowing. I could brief you on bullying and this note that makes every parent think twice. I could share how youths who don’t know a true understanding of love often fall into the arms of counterfeit love and suffer life-changing pregnancies and STDs.  I could but I won’t. Because this weekend I found out a sweet little elementary girl lost one of her parents and suddenly statistics feel trite. In an unpredictable world, THIS is why it is important to do something unique with your child-




Your child needs your time-We “give” our children a lot of things. We put them to dance, drive them to soccer, usher them to piano, basketball, youth group, and the list goes on. We’ve been told that keeping our children busy will keep them out of trouble so taking them to good and noble things in the name of “opportunity” makes us feel better. But, if togetherness isn’t built in we are missing the most important thing to helping them stay on the track we wish for them. They don’t get to hear our heart, know what we believe and value, and understand our personal dreams. There is no substitute for YOU. A check can put your child in a lot of things, but it will never carry the same investment as bonding with you.

 

Your child needs to feel praised and secure-This world is really great at knocking all of us down, beginning with the least confident on the playground. We aren’t born with inflated self-confidence. It comes in knowing who we are. For your child to know they are loved no matter what, they can come to you with anything, and hear you speak the special qualities you identify in them will promote the emotional support they need to stand strong in trying times.

 

Your child needs you to listen- Multitasking is a trademark of our culture that may destroy more than build up. How many times is your child answering your questions or trying to talk with you while you’re making supper, answering a text, or reading something from their backpack? It happens in my house. But, when we give them our eyes and free ourselves of distraction we silently say, “you are my priority.” And, it allows our children moments to unfurl all they are needing to say.

 

Your child needs limits-Undoubtedly within this time when our children know they are secure to say whatever and we will give them our ears, some tough topics will emerge. Questions of self-worth, beauty, quality friends, how we use our words, media influence, things that make us happy and sad and what we’d like to do (all to be discussed through one-on-one directed stretch time in my class) will emerge. Older children might bring up drugs, alcohol, and sex. And, this is your time to kindly tell them what YOU believe. Contrary to popular thought, our children don’t want us to be there friend. They need someone to help steer them in a healthy direction or their friends and the media will become their compass. Known values and boundaries create security when children know the why behind it and, in a tough world, they CRAVE that.

 

Your child needs something shared with you-To have an activity/event to do together one-on-one creates connectedness. It’s like a love language without words that naturally continues bringing your child back to you so that you can nurture the parent-child bond, ensuring opportunity to be together, chat, laugh, and cry. {My hubby gets this through All Pro Dad and daddy/daughter dates. I’m excited to make this my special time.}

Every child needs these keys from their parent to grow up healthy and strong.  I encourage you to be intentional to build in this time with your child(ren) today. In doing so, you will keep the lines of communication open and ensure that you will remain their go-to person. I’m grateful for an opportunity to teach a class focusing on this with my young ones. It will enhance that foundation before adolescence hits J

Mom and dad, YOU matter!

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

3 Kids, 3 Stages, Books to Enjoy Throughout the Ages {National Young Readers Week}

It’s National Young Readers Week! As an author it makes me giddy with excitement to celebrate the love of reading with littles. As a mom, I get nostalgic watching my kids work for their free Pizza Hut personal pan pizzas I loved as a child.

Needless to say, when I was inspired by Casper to share our family’s favorite bedtime stories I was all in.  I mean, what greater joy is there than climbing atop a comfy mattress and getting lost in good book?

Since we’re at three different ages and stages in our house, my husband and I get in on three very different reading levels. These are their favs-

Ava (3) loves:
 

Just In Case You Ever Wonder by Max Lucado- This is probably my favorite children’s book of all time. Beginning with “Long, long ago, God made a decision – a very important decision…one that I’m really glad He made. He made the decision to make you ,” the story shares everything that we want our children to know. They are special, unique, chosen, and loved regardless of circumstance. Through sweet wording children hear how their parent wants to be there and talk them through it all, and how God will embrace and forever bind us. This book cannot be over-read. {Note: This story is equally fitting for adoption and makes an a very special baby gift}

 


Peppa Pig Ballet Lesson by Elizabeth Schaefer- Ava’s two primary loves in life at this point include dance and Peppa Pig. The combination of the two is priceless entertainment in her world.


 

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.- Eric Carle’s eye catching pictures make this fun to pick up and the textual idea repetition make this an easy toddler first read. Hence, when we have Bible time at night right before prayers this is Ava's contribution because she likes to read on her own and feel “part” of the tradition. :)

Hannah’s (7) favorites include:



The Chicken of the Family by Mary Amato- This hilarious story is about a family with three sisters, which resembles our own. In it, the older two harass the baby, telling her she’s a chicken rather than a human. Through conniving techniques, they get Henrietta to actually believe it is true and she finds the feeling of home at a chicken farm down the road. When her sisters come to get her and persuade her home before they get in trouble, lots of laughter ensues.

 
 
 
 

Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo-   Every one of these books is a hit. Unlike most pigs, Mercy loves cookies and toast with butter, dressing up, and sleeping in a human bed. She’s Mr. and Mrs. Watson’s pet that acts more like a child, and each story takes readers on a fun adventure in her life.

 


I Am Loved by Sheila Walsh- From the Gigi, God’s Little Princess line (which I’ve posted about before here and here), this devotional-like gem takes real issues girls in this season of life face and encourages them through readings, promises, prayers, and Scripture to help empower them and deepen their trust in their Maker. Hannah shares a section of this each night at Bible time.

Grace’s (9) go-to grabs include:



Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney– This laugh-out-loud line of books is the story of a family that has its own problems and strengths.  Greg, the main character, is in middle school. He’s got two “annoying” brothers – Manny, the toddler, and Rodrick, his older band-playing brother. Throughout the series, he encounters troubles with them as well as his crush, Holly Hills, and in his attempts to resolve them hilarity usually results.

 


Secret Keeper Girl Fiction Series by Dannah Gresh- This is a fun four part fiction series packed with an eternal message. In each of the books, the featured girl faces a real-life issue – a crush, breaking a school rule, embarrassment over parents, and wanting to be part of the “cool” lunch table – resulting in a decision that lands her in detention. While there, the main character finds acceptance in a group of positive peers called the Secret Keeper Club. In this healthy friendship, messages about dangerous obsessions, materialism, forgiveness, and being yourself prepares young readers to close the book a strong, more God-centered girl.  

 
Connect Bible (Augsburg Fortress)– This awesome Bible is complete with visually appealing icons and connects that help young one’s/readers navigate their way around the story and see God’s loving hand and consistent message shared throughout Scripture. Grace reads a passage each night at family Bible time.  


What do your young readers like to read when you snuggle up?

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Friday, October 31, 2014

The Attitude of Gratitude Tablecloth {A November Family Exercise}

I don't know about your family, but the Nesdahl's are in need of remembering our abundant blessings.

Yes, I write a Christian blog but my family is no different than yours.  Sometimes the kids bicker and have selective hearing.  My husband and I can be guilty of looking through the Sunday advertisements with wishful eyes or complaining about the old carpet and feeling like we are somehow lacking even though compared to most of the globe we are rich. {Did you know that if you have any money saved, a hobby that requires some equipment or supplies, a variety of clothes in your closet, two cars (in any condition), and live in your own home, you are in the top 5% of the world’s wealthy? True story according to Randy Alcorn's Money, Possessions and Eternity}

So for the month of November we are going to intentionally focus our hearts.



I made a pumpkin centerpiece, bought a cheap plastic tablecloth, and fell victim to the heavenly smell of the cinnamon pinecone packets in the storefront. Together they make up our November dining room table d├ęcor.



Starting on the first we will each write one thing a day that we are thankful for on the tablecloth.  Any dinner guests we have during the month will be invited to join in as well.  And, as days pass and the notations multiply we will have an amazing visual of just how blessed we are.

If my kids were a little older I'd go with a nicer tablecloth, but with the tiny tot in the house I'd be a fool to think we won't have several spills :)  The party aisle plastic will wipe nicely and no thanks notes will be lost in the process. It's the meaning, not the look.

One of my favorite Proverbs is "Above all else, guard you heart, for everything you do flows from it" (4:23).  I earnestly believe that in intentionally focusing our heart on noting the many blessings we have the natural outflow of that will be a more grateful life.

And I want that for everyone under my roof, don't you?

Now, as for how I'm going to break Ava of writing on tablecloths after this month, I am not sure. Suggestions welcome :)

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Dear Daughter, Let Me Tell You A Little Something About that Beauty Commercial

I’m emptying the dishwasher when I hear the beauty defying cream commercial begin to play. My girls, eating their cereal while watching innocent children’s programming, hear promises of younger looking skin in an effort to resist the clock.

“Mom, do you use that stuff?”

Grace, old enough to be in tune to the inferences of these commercials but young enough to still take a “guarantee” at face value, wants to know.

“Nope.”

“Why not?,” she instantly inquires.

I pause to give Jesus time to return and gift me a get out of jail free card. He does not.

Teach.

 


As a mother in the trenches facing worldly Goliath’s, I fill my lungs with air, hoping that infused in the oxygen will be the answer made simple. My heart knows this tiny question has huge ramifications.

“Well, I like make up and, when you’re old enough, you can wear it too, if you wish.”

I’m not anti beauty products, and it’s critical she hear me say this because I don’t want her to think that it is the actual cosmetics that are the enemy. Like most women, I apply some make-up every morning. And, as the mom of girls, I can already imagine fun bonding times in front of the mirror. My mom applied my wedding makeup. A moment I will forever hold dear.

“But, just because they say that a product will do something doesn’t mean it actually will.”

Nobody in the commercial mentioned that 75% of new beauty products on the market fail. To do so would make us question these promises they are touting and we are buying hook, line, and sinker. American’s spend $426 billion dollars a year in beauty and personal care .

“Sadly, people try and make a lot of things in this life sound really good to make you think something that isn’t necessarily true.”

Like our “need” for the products. Knowing that all women have to wrestle with the beauty issue, brands have now gone so far as to prey on our insecurities to secure their profits. In a new study to “identify when women feel most vulnerable about their appearance throughout the week in order to determine the best timing for beauty product messages and promotions,” mornings were found to be the time females feel the least beautiful. It follows then that this would be a prime time to lure us in and explains why my children saw the ad when they did. Isn’t that nice? Beyond that, teenagers, who will arguably struggle most with this issue, wear a target. During television shows most often watched by teen girls, 56% of commercials used beauty as a product appeal. There isn’t a concealer in the world that can cover up what lies beneath the timing of these ads.

“Grace, the thing is they try to tell you you need these things to be beautiful and true beauty comes from God not from any cream in a bottle.”

And that is what I am anti – the enemy is found in the message that...

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Don't Miss the Diamonds


This past weekend I took my annual trip to Women of Faith.

I did some power shopping, ate life-changing food with a very special group of ladies, and listened to moving messages and powerful concerts that dusted off the weary places and polished what was already shining to nurture an exchanged life. 

I’m always certain I will enjoy myself.  I’m never certain how God will shake me.
 

Sheila Walsh took the stage Friday night with story of her childhood. “When I was young I used to love to walk along the shore after a big storm and find all the treasures that washed up.” Paralleling it to storms in our own life and the riches placed by the One who knows our story and loves us through it, she went on to communicate, “One time I even found an engagement ring.”

The visual got under my skin.

After an amazing Natalie Grant concert, we filtered out of the Xcel Center a huddle of women thinning in the night sky.

“I can’t shake what Sheila said,” I told my friend Carol as my feet moved on autopilot toward the hotel, “because really life is a storm. Not in the sense that there is always catastrophe or big problem, but just in the sense that we are busy and have a million things on our plate. I don’t want to miss the diamonds washing up in my everyday because I’m so focused on all the things, ya know?”  She’s a sweet friend with a steadfast spirit and I had to know, “What stuck out to you tonight?”

And then from behind a woman we did not know fused herself into our conversation. Although the only light to be found was from the streetlamps above, there was an undeniable moisture glistening in her eyes. 

“My daughter-in-law arranged this trip for her and I but she was just diagnosed with breast cancer that has metastasized to her liver so she can’t be around the crowds because she’s started chemo.”Alone and saddened by the swelling waves of life, she gently unfurled her story. Blessed to be invited somehow in, I asked for her daughter-in-law’s name so that I could pray. She happily gave it to me, and then parted ways with the smallest smile on her lips. 

SLOW DOWN. PAY ATTENTION. God smacked me upside the head.

It was a diamond moment honestly made easy for me because I was in a setting stripped of my normal life schedule and demands.  The only thing on my mind during this yearly trip is Jesus and drawing nearer.

“So how do I transpose this desired awareness from the bubble of a faith conference to the surge of everyday life?” The call/question rolled off my lips to my group.

God makes himself fully available to me but do I make myself fully available to Him? The honest answer is no.  Sometimes in my routine I’m guilty of tunnel vision.  I get so caught up in the chaos of human experience to make life roll smoothly that I lose sight of the treasures intended to make life richer.  

Will we see the diamonds or walk on by?

I’m working on it…

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